I haven't blogged much about the torture legalization bill that Bush is trying to get passed, but it's really pretty frightening. On top of making torture the official policy of the United States, it also tosses out habeas corpus for detainees, so the President can abduct someone and torture them in a secret prison, without having to provide any justification. Bush is already doing this illegally, but instead of exercising their ability to hold the President accountable, Congressional Republicans are rushing to give up their power to a lawless executive. Look, if representative democracy is too hard for these guys, and they'd rather live in a dictatorship, maybe they're in the wrong line of work.
As I understand it, the original rationale for denying habeas rights to enemy combatants was the impracticality of providing due process to prisoners of war captured on a battlefield. The Bush administration has already undermined this by applying "enemy combatant" status to detainees who had no actual involvement in combat, such as Jose Padilla. Kevin Drum has the latest amendment to the torture legalization bill, which makes this official by redefining "enemy combatant" to include people who have "purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States". So under this bill the president can accuse someone of supporting terrorists, have him arrested, detained in a secret prison, and tortured, without ever having to provide evidence against him. Of course this is grossly unconstitutional, but there's also a provision that bars courts from reviewing the constitutionality of these procedures.
I can't get over the fact that we as a country are about to legalize torture and arbitrary imprisonment. I thought America was better than this.
Politics is everything with the Bush Administration, and in the latest effort to bring the government in line with the new political correctness, we have:
Earth dropped from NASA mission statement
NASA has reportedly eliminated the promise "to understand and protect our home planet" from its mission statement.
That statement was repeatedly cited last winter by NASA climate scientist James Hansen, who said he was being threatened by political appointees for speaking about the dangers posed by greenhouse gas emissions.
But NASA officials told The New York Times the elimination of the phrase that was used by Hansen was "pure coincidence." The statement now proclaims the agency's mission is "to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research."
One observer noted results from NASA's increasing involvement in monitoring the Earth's environment have sparked political disputes concerning the Bush administration's environmental policies.
What an asshole. He finally locates his veto stamp halfway through his second term—I'm guessing he was carrying it around in his ass like the watch in Pulp Fiction—and he uses it to crush the hopes of people suffering from illness, all in the name of a completely incoherent claim about morality. (Not to mention the damage to scientific research in the U.S., but in that area it's just the latest in a long line of offenses.) The description of the event makes me physically ill. From the CNN article:
Attending the White House event were a group of families with children who were born from "adopted" frozen embryos that had been left unused at fertility clinics.
"These boys and girls are not spare parts," he said of the children in the audience. "They remind us of what is lost when embryos are destroyed in the name of research. They remind us that we all begin our lives as a small collection of cells."
Democrats should make sure no one forgets about this veto. Stem-cell research is very popular and any Republican who opposed this bill should never hear the end of it. I can't say I'll be surprised if the Dems don't take advantage of this opportunity, but I can always hope.
This has been mentioned everywhere already, but since I posted a series of dumb quotes by public figures last week, I would be remiss if I left out the champion:
During a joint news conference Saturday in St. Petersburg, Bush said he raised concerns about democracy in Russia during a frank discussion with the Russian leader.
"I talked about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world, like Iraq where there's a free press and free religion, and I told him that a lot of people in our country would hope that Russia would do the same," Bush said.
To that, Putin replied, "We certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy that they have in Iraq, quite honestly."
Is unbelievable cluelessness considered grounds for impeachment?
Where does George W. Bush find these people? Here we have Stephen Bradbury, Acting Deputy Attorney General, explaining his views on constitutional law:
BRADBURY: The President is always right.
That's why George W. Bush has to take this case to the highester court in the land: the court of George W. Bush. It's a tough bench alright, but Bush can win this one as long as he exercises his constitutional right to ignore the Constitution. The legal technicalities are pretty complicated but Giblets believes it involves filing a writ of neener neener according to the precedent of I Can't Hear You v. I'm Not Listening.
Sure, this is completely futile, but that's part of the charm:
With overwhelming support from Berkeley residents, the Berkeley City Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday night to be the first jurisdiction in the United States to let the public vote for the President's impeachment. The measure will appear on the Nov. 7 ballot, at a cost of about $10,000.
The measure alleges that the administration violated the Constitution with illegal domestic spying, justified the Iraq war with fraudulent claims and illegally tortured citizens. San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Cruz and dozens of other cities have already passed council resolutions urging impeachment but none has gone as far as Berkeley.
I think my brain is still in vacation mode, since I haven't been able to come up with any deep thoughts for the blog. I have a bunch of stuff to review which I'll try to post tonight. Meanwhile, I haven't done a political post for a while, so here are a few items.
During my time in Jordan, I asked a number of officials what they considered to be the most curious aspect of the relationship between the U.S. and al-Zarqawi, other than the fact that the Bush administration had inflated him.
One of them said, “The six times you could have killed Zarqawi, and you didn’t.”
When Powell addressed the United Nations, he discussed the Ansar al-Islam camp near Khurmal, in northern Kurdistan, which he claimed was producing ricin and where al-Zarqawi was then based. On at least three occasions, between mid-2002 and the invasion of Iraq the following March, the Pentagon presented plans to the White House to destroy the Khurmal camp, according to a report published by TheWall Street Journal in October 2004. The White House either declined or simply ignored the request.
I meant to blog this story over the weekend, but was distracted by, um, football. Anyway: here's a pretty good illustration of why I said last week that the Bush administration should just stay away from science.
So George Deutsch, an asshat Bush appointee (is that redundant?) to the public affairs office at NASA, took it upon himself to make sure that everything coming out of the agency was, well... "politically correct" would be a good term for it if it didn't have other connotations. This included trying to stop NASA's top climate scientist from speaking about global warming, and insisting that the Big Bang be referred to as "the Big Bang theory", because, like evolution, it's "just a theory". (I am pretty much the last science blogger to comment on this.)
What happened next was sort of hilarious: a blogger discovered that Deutsch lied on his resume, claiming to have graduated from Texas A&M when in fact he never received a degree. This has resulted in Deutsch's subsequent resignation, which would be heartening if this administration weren't so good at finding even worse people to replace the ones who leave.
And this would be why I'm suspicious of Bush's increased funding for physical science. How much of it is going to guys like Deutsch, or projects of which they would approve? (Is there a cosmological equivalent of Intelligent Design? Maybe The Onion's Intelligent Falling.) As has been pointed out by others, this administration just doesn't do policy. Everything is politics to them.
UPDATE: I see we have nothing to worry about, now that Duke Cunningham's seat on the House subcommittee responsible for NASA's budget has been filled by... Tom DeLay.
Ok, the Dem response was better than last year's, but still boring. I'm going back to physics. You can just wire that money directly over here, George.
He's revised the Democratic slogan to "There's a better way". A little punchier, I guess.
The Pentagon is "sacred ground"?
Kaine's going for a "nice reasonable bipartisan" thing.
Tim Kaine has the raised eyebrow thing going big-time.
On to the Democratic response, because I am a glutton for punishment.
C-SPAN commentator: "Well, the president's certainly taking his time leaving the chamber..."
It's over, cue music: "America.... America.... America! Fuck yeah!"
Ok, I just missed a few minutes so I could talk to my advisor. What's he talking about now? I caught something about embryos or something, was that stem cells? Grr. Ok, he's on to corruption--wait, now it's something else. Is he randomly jumping between topics or am I just confused?
More money for physics? Hey, thanks! Maybe this means our grant will get funded.
"Nukular" again. Well, at least he's making reference to alternative energy. But ethanol costs more energy to produce than it ultimately provides. I'll wait until I see how much money actually gets allocated to realistic projects.
"Congress did not act on my proposal to save Social Security" MASSIVE applause. Awesome.
Line item veto? He's never even used the regular veto.
Yeah, better make the tax cuts permanent, otherwise those American families in the top 1% of income might get an unwelcome increase. Oh wait, he left out part of that too.
Hmm, I don't think he's going to mention that the job increases can be accounted for by public sector jobs. Especially just before he criticizes "the government taking a larger role".
Seriously, has he even read the Constitution? I do not think it says what he thinks it says.
"RESPECT MAH AUTHORITAH." If there are people inside our country talking to Al Qaeda, get a fucking warrant.
Mixed reaction from Congress in response to "PATRIOT Act". Seem to recall that happened previously.
"Nukular"! Twice! (I was at a seminar last week where a physicist was saying this... it's spreading.)
"Rule of law, protection of minorities, and strong accountable institutions" Hey, can we get some of that here?
"A duty to speak with candor" I think he takes that about as seriously as his Texas Air National Guard duty.
Here's the part where criticism of the war is undermining the troops, or something.
Bush just gave a rousing argument against isolationism, delivering a stunning rebuttal to... the crazy guy on Telegraph Avenue. Seriously, who's arguing for isolationism that it needed to be addressed? Keep kicking that straw man...
"Enemies of freedom"... there's one! Oh, wait...
I usually watch the State of the Union address, and have liveblogged it in the past. I'm not sure I'll be able to do it this year, without throwing things at the screen in a fit of rage. If the members of Congress had any respect for their offices, George W. Bush would be in prison, not standing at that podium.
Ok, I realize that I sound like the crazed anti-Clinton ranters of the '90s. But the difference is that Clinton got a blowjob, while Bush has violated the law, the Fourth Amendment, and his oath of office, and has freely admitted to doing so while claiming that the president is above the law. In effect, he is claiming dictatorial powers for himself, which should by itself be reason for impeachment. Didn't we fight a revolution over this?
Instead the Senate has confirmed to the Supreme Court a judge who agrees with Bush's view of unconstrained executive power. I think Bush actually needs a couple more Alitos on the court before he can put on the crown, but in terms of dramatic timing he should totally go for the Emperor Palapatine acceptance speech tonight.
I'm guessing, however, that we'll get really boring rhetoric about Health Savings Accounts, and probably some saber-rattling at Iran. Hence, I am thinking that I should keep my blood pressure down and just spend the hour reading Cute Overload or something. I can catch the highlights on the Daily Show later.
And while writing this I have learned that apparently Bush will try to position himself as pro-science, maybe even while keeping a straight face. Given Daniel Davies' insight about the success of Bush administration policy initiatives, I think we'd prefer that he stay the hell away from science, thanks.
Apparently one of the lessons George W. Bush took away from the Harriet Miers fiasco was that if he wants to appoint unqualified cronies, he should bypass that pesky Senate. Yesterday evening he made seventeen recess appointments, including at least one egregiously unsuited candidate.
It's hard not to see this in the present context of the administration asserting its right to ignore the law in order to torture detainees and spy on US citizens. Bush really does believe that Congress is irrelevant as far as the executive is concerned.
A lot of people are suggesting that Bush is acting like a king. Well, yeah. He's been acting like a king ever since he decided he was qualified to be president solely because his father had held the office. When we elect presidents on a hereditary basis, it should be no surprise that they start thinking they're monarchs...
The right-wing anti-science movement is succeeding in driving researchers to more rational nations:
Fallout from the corruption of secular science by the Bush administration and its religious allies continues to pile up. The latest is a particularly harmful blow: Two of the world's best geneticists will leave the National Cancer Institute and move not to Stanford University, which had heavily recruited them, but to Singapore's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology. The reason is simple: They will face far fewer restrictions on their research, which involves stem cells.
At a certain level it doesn't matter whether stem cell research is being done in the US or Singapore—science is a human endeavor, not a nationalistic one. But if there are scientists who feel they need to leave the country in order to work in this field, there are others who are choosing to work on other problems because there are so many barriers to stem cell biology. Not to mention that of the research institutions with the world-class infrastructure needed to do cutting-edge research, many are in the US and this infrastructure will be underutilized as a result. Bush's policies are slowing down the progress of the entire field, not just US science.
On the other hand, this will have a deleterious effect on the US economy as biotech and medical companies relocate. One might think Bush's big-business allies would be uneasy about this, but one only need look at the US current account deficit to see that Bush's big-business allies aren't exactly taking the long view.
Via Shellock, there's a Reuters piece today outlining concerns about increasing anti-science sentiment in the US. I was glad to see this in a mainstream source; it's what scientists have been saying for a few years now. The piece is a bit disjointed but manages to hit several related topics: Bush administration abuses of science, the intelligent design battle, general scientific illiteracy and weaknesses in science education. They could have been tougher on the ID crowd but it's nice to see them correctly place ID in the larger anti-science trend.
I was in Los Angeles the last three days and thus missed the opportunity to blog on Fitzmas. Instead I can blog on Halloween, with Bush's appropriately scary choice of Samuel Alito as the new Supreme Court nominee. Apparently he has decided to appease the base rather than nominate another crony. Oh well, the Miers thing was funny while it lasted.
I'm still reading up on Alito but as usual Lawyers, Guns, and Money is a good source.
Just yesterday I told someone that Bush wouldn't withdraw the Harriet Miers nomination, due to his inability to admit mistakes. Well, so much for that (although it was done in a way so that Bush didn't have to admit a mistake). If that's the way it's going to work, I would also like to predict that Patrick Fitzgerald won't bring indictments against high-ranking Bush administration officials, and that our lab will fail to produce a working qubit next week. Go ahead, universe: prove me wrong.
It's a little sad to see Miers go, because I was really enjoying watching Republicans rend each other's flesh. Now Bush worship is back in style. According to a couple of sources, it's traditional at this point for the president to present a "fuck you" nomination. If he's blaming the social conservative wing for stopping Miers, this presumably means nominating Alberto Gonzales. That could certainly be an amusing fight, but a little more distressing in light of Gonzales' unusual legal theory that the president should have absolute power.
Or Bush might try to appease the James Dobsons and Ann Coulters, and nominate someone who would vote to overturn Roe and Griswold. (Side question: How long would the Republicans stay in power if they managed to overturn Griswold and started outlawing contraception? It seems to me that this position would be just slightly unpopular. Presumably the party strategists know this, and won't let it happen.)
I've been giving careful consideration to Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, and it is my considered legal opinion that this is hilarious. Mere weeks after he gets in trouble for putting a laughably unqualified crony in charge of FEMA, and his nominee is someone distinguished for being the Texas Lottery Commissioner and for saying that Bush is the most brilliant man she had ever met? (That last part should be enough to disqualify her from any public office, ever.) And if this weren't boneheaded enough, he's got the social conservatives frothing with rage because they were expecting the Spanish Inquisition. I think the best advice for Democrats is to grab some popcorn and watch the fireworks.
Wait, there's more! Here's an AP photo of Miers briefing President Bush... on August 6, 2001! Anyone remember the title of that briefing? You may recall something like "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." Clearly her job performance merits a promotion to the Supreme Court of the United States.
We all knew that Bush was going to fuck up the Court, but he is to be commended for attempting to fuck it up in the funniest way possible. Ladies and gentlemen, the Bush Administration has descended into self-parody.
Brad DeLong, using dark and forbidden magicks, has singlehandedly resurrected the Shrillblog, which hosts the best Lovecraftian political commentary on the internets. I promptly failed a sanity roll, took a point in Cthulhu Mythos, and bookmarked its RSS feed.
PENTAGON TO HOST
9/11 MARCH, SHOW
BY MICHAEL McAULIFF
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon will hold a massive march and country music concert to mark the fourth anniversary of 9/11, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in an unusual announcement tucked into an Iraq war briefing yesterday.
'This year the Department of Defense will initiate an America Supports You Freedom Walk,' Rumsfeld said, adding that the march would remind people of 'the sacrifices of this generation and of each previous generation.'
The march will start at the Pentagon, where nearly 200 people died on 9/11, and end at the National Mall with a show by country star Clint Black.
Obviously, this has nothing to do with respecting the victims of terrorism, but is a transparent attempt to boost militaristic sentiments when the public is becoming disillusioned with the war, as well as further propagate the bogus link between Iraq and 9/11. But expecting guys like Rumsfeld to exhibit any shame or sense of decency is too much at this point.